March 7, 2012

"Black Cylinder" Redux

 Black Cylinder, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 5 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. 

A few days ago I posted the image below of a new painting, Black Cylinder, stating that I was not sure about it and felt it wasn't quite right. With the wonder that is the internet I had a virtual studio visit with readers via blog and Facebook comments, and email. Several things that people said were very helpful, even though I did not follow the advice directly. I am going to name friends as a way of thanking them and I hope no one minds.

  • Martin Scholte thought I should have a vertical band instead of triangles.
  • Rosaire Appel suggested removing the top left triangle.
  • Susan Taverna saw an unresolved painting because neither the abstraction nor the realism took precedence, so the balance was out of whack. 
  • Most helpful, because she crystallized the realism/abstraction conundrum, was Rhea Wilson, who simply pointed out that the right side of the painting was three dimensional and the left two. 

So, what to do? I first played around in photoshop, getting rid of the top left triangle as Rosaire suggested, which made me want to move the diagonal farther to the right. Ah-hah, I liked that better because the light area of blue could then converse more easily with the light blues on the right. On to paint....
When I painted the left blue triangle in its larger size, I did not like the dark blue going clear to the edge at top, so I took up Martin's idea of a vertical and painted a thin light blue vertical. Another ah-hah, as that light line repeated the rhythm of the cylinder's vertical. I painted the light blue a little more realistically, with a value change, so it could be read as sky.
I then added a light blue edge on the big blue shape at top and a darker line on the diagonal, to give a feeling of weight; not too much, just a small indication.
So, here I am now in the image above, there I was below. I am much happier with the painting: the elements seem to be in better balance and I have my online critique group to thank. What do you think? better, or not?

 Black Cylinder, first version

new version on left. old on right


  1. I like the repetition of the vertical line on upper left. the old angled line disturbed the composition. Much better now...harmonious?

  2. Excellent solution! And so nice to be able to get advice/critique when you are not sharing studio space with anyone and thus, always relying on your own vision.

  3. feels right to me this time around.

  4. thank you, so very much! I know I would have just put it aside without the very helpful feedback.

  5. Hi Altoon, Yes I like the new version because it becomes simpler, a "vertical" painting, but I would have tried some more radical changes, such as placing a blue rectangle the width of a pencil and about 1/5-1/6th-1/7th? of the way down alongside from the top left side of the tube (flag holder?)It could also angle out a bit (or remain a straight rectangle)as it travels down the side of the tube. This would possibly open up the painting. (see Manet's "The Picnic" and look at the small triangle of blue above the dark green trees on the top middle edge of the painting, see how crucial it is)Also I disagree with Susan as I feel her need for either the "abstraction" or "realism" to take precedence is the result of a linear way of perceiving, as to synthesize both with neither taking precedence is really much more real and accomplished to my mind, (taking into account a Taoist approach to perceiving in which the "yinyang" exists within the same reality and although may appear on one plane to conflict, actually is ultimately harmonic).I like the "flip" back and forth, then the resolution between abstraction and representation. Haha of course if you choose to try my idea, it may (or may not) change your feelings concerning the placement of ,existence of, or the proportions of the blue on the left side. the one thing that the original upper left triangle did contribute was a bit of "opening" or "relief" which has now been diminished or "hardened" and which may be now resurrected in the form of the inclusion as I suggested, and the conundrum of Rhea may be solved as it may "carry through"and "across" from the one side to the other. Of course I could be wrong as it is not my painting! There are other things going on with the left "planar/so called abstract side as well but Ive typed enough for now, hahah. (John MacWhinnie)

    1. thanks, John, for your thoughts. First the realism/abstraction issue: I agree with Susan in that there has to be a balance achieved between the two and this painting had been on shaky ground that way, with Rhea's comment more to the point.
      As for your rectangle idea, the original of the image had some line drawings on the cylinder, instructional images. I tried putting an abstract version of them in the painting, but took them out because I preferred the simplicity of the unadorned cylinder.
      I appreciate your input, but I think I'm done with messing about with this painting.

  6. I love the addition of the vertical at the left.

  7. When I saw the first one I didn't think it really needed an update. Now that I have seen the additions I think the painting has much more depth and feeling.

  8. I like your solution very much Altoon. My eye travels around the picture plane more easily now.